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Medicine Man Glider 


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Medicine Man Glider 

Written By: Ryan Grosswiler 


Ballpoint pen (1) 

Bar sander (1) 

such as the Great Planes 1 1 " Easy- 
Touch, for sanding in notches and 
making adjustments. 

Drill bit (1) 

You don't need a drill. 

Guidance from an experienced model 
builder (1) 

Optional. Highly recommended. One 
mistake on a model can mean the 
difference between flying and crashing. 

Hacksaw blade (1) 

• Hobby knifed) 

Your best friend throughout construction. 
Change blades at the end of each phase. 

Iron (1) 

Modeling board (1) 

Plans (1) 

included with my kit, or you can 

download and print them from 


Iron-on plastic covering (2' x 6' roll) 
/ used Top Flite MonoKote Transparent - 
and don't recommend the opaque. 
Hangar 9 UltraCote is also good. The 
traditional - and classiest - covering is 
Silkspan. a heavy-grade tissue paper 
that you apply with glue and dope, but 
it's fragile and impractical for landing in 
dry grass. 


You can buy one of my kits, which 
includes all the wood you need, 
preprinted with patterns, at 
Otherwise, you'll need the following, 
available at Hobby Lobby, hobby- 
lobby. com, and other hobby shops. 
Wood quality varies greatly, so first- time 
builders should seek experienced 

Balsa sticks (8) 

Balsa sheet (1) 

Balsa sheet (1) 

RpIqp etirke C?\ 

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Medicine Man Glider 

makezine. com/1 7/model airplane. 

Razor saw (1) 

to cut hardwood stock 

Ruler (1) 

Sanding block (1) 

Sanding block (1) 

Sandpaper (1) 

Sandpaper (1) 

Sping clamps (1) 

Spray bottled) 

T-pins (1 pack) 

or modeling pins. $6 for 50 

Triangle (1) 

Wax paper (1) 

Balsa block (1) 

or you can laminate a block from 6-7 

layers of 3/1 6" sheet 

Balsa (2) 

Hard balsa (2) 

Spruce lumber (2) 

• Dowel (1) 

Wood glued) 

Aka aliphatic resin. Cyanoacrylate 
"super" glues are finicky and brittle, and 
the bottle frequently clogs. Then, when 
you unclog it. it shoots a stream of glue 
on a nearby appendage and nearly burns 
it as it cures. 

Masking tape (1) 

Weights (1) 

I just use lead tire weights I find in 


Wood screws (3) 

Brass strip (1) 

R/C airplane radio (1) 

All must fit in the fuselage, so bring the 

plan to the hobby shop. I used an old 

Futaba Conquest radio with Hi tec HS-81 


Control horns (1 pack) 

/ used Du-Bro 1/2A nylon control horns. 

item #107. 

Model hinges (1 pack) 

/ used Great Planes Ultra Grip CA 

Hinges, item #GPMQ3950. 

R/C control pushrods (1 pack) 

/ used 36" Sullivan Flexible Gold-N- 

Rods. item #S503. 

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Medicine Man Glider 

Rubber bands (4) 

or 6 if you use a Hi-Start bungee 


Carbon paper (1) 

Optional. If you don't use the kit, you'll 
need this to transfer the patterns from 
the plan to wood. 

Magazines (1) 
to cut on 


The summer before ninth grade, in 1985, I was stuck at home while my usual friends were 
away. I started talking with Eddie, the World War II vet who lived across the street, and 
during those 3 months he taught me the fundamentals of model airplane building. His lifelong 
hobby, which he had learned during the Great Depression, became my own, and it inspired 
my career as a flight instructor and developer of UAVs for the U.S. Air Force. 

I designed the Medicine Man to reintroduce this largely lost art, drawing on my own 
experience and discussions with fellow modelers. I made it a glider because gliders are the 
purest form of flying machine, they're cheaper to build, and they develop piloting skills 
without the distraction of engine management. It's R/C compatible so you can fly it in city 
and suburban parks, or you can make a free-flight version for larger expanses. Its 5-foot 
wingspan makes it stable enough for beginners (larger planes are more stable), yet with the 
wings dismounted it will fit in a small car. I hope you enjoy it! 

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Medicine Man Glider 

Step 1 — Trace the patterns 

• This is the tedious part. Do 
not attempt it while feeling 
impatient or agitated. 

• If you're building from plain wood 
rather than the kit, download and 
print the plans from 

http://makezine.eom/1 7/model airplane . 
Trace the patterns onto the sheet 
using carbon paper, making sure 

the wood's grain runs in the piece's 
dominant direction. Mark some 
pieces multiple times, following the 
plan. I offer the kit to save the 
builder money and because 
patterns can be frustrating to a 
beginning builder. 

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Medicine Man Glider 

Step 2 — Cut the sheet parts 

Cut out each piece using the knife. Cut them slightly oversize, particularly on mating 
portions, so you can sand them down to a firm fit later. Don't cut through the piece all at 
once; allow several passes (2-3 per 1/16" of thickness). Where parts are mirrored right 
and left, cut one and then flip it over to use as a pattern for the other. Old magazines are 
good for cutting on top of. 

After cutting out each part, number it with a pen. Then trim the parts down and refine their 
shapes using sandpaper. Save leftover wood. 

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Medicine Man Glider 

Step 3 — Build the tail 

• General building advice: Before 
touching knife to wood, study the 
plan and conduct an "imaginary 
build" of the model's entire 
skeleton, visualizing each step. 
Taking the time to do this first will 
make the build much easier. 

• For each section of the plan, you'll 
follow the same general procedure: 
pin the plan onto the building board 
under a sheet of waxed paper. 
Start with the tail, which is the 
simplest part. 

• Fit, glue, and pin down the pieces, 
starting with the perimeter pieces 
and then filling in, sanding as 
necessary for a precise fit. Glue 
pieces only after they're snug; glue 
should work as a bonding agent, 
not as a filler. Wipe away excess 
glue with a scrap of balsa - this is 
easier than sanding it away later. 
Finally, spray down the assembly 
with warm water to relax tensions 
in the wood. 

• Let the tail assembly dry overnight 
and remove it from the plan. 

• Note: you can add 50% 
rubbing alcohol to the water 
to promote saturation and relax the 
wood even more. 


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Medicine Man Glider 

Step 4 — Cut the tail's curved tips and hinge slots for the rudder and 

To cut the tail's curved tips, hold the plan up to a light and pin it aligned over the assembly. 
Lay them down, plan on top, and punch through the paper with a pen at about 1/8" 
intervals, following the curve to make a dotted line. Remove the plan and make a connect- 
the-dots cut, following the line. Finish by holding the elevator piece (H-1) against the fin 
and blending their combined outline into a smooth curve. 

Draw and cut hinge slots for the rudder and elevator, centered as shown on the plan. Use 
sandpaper to bevel the leading edges of the rudder and elevator along their hinge lines, so 
they'll rotate freely. 

Sand all surfaces to the rounded cross-section shown on the plan. 

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Medicine Man Glider 

Step 5 — Build the fuselage sides 

• You'll build the 2 mirror- 
image fuselage sides one at 
a time. 

• For the lower longerons (the 
horizontal structural members 
which run the length of the 
fuselage), soak 2 of the 3/16" 
square sticks in hot water for 10 
minutes to make them more 

• Assemble a fuselage side on top of 
the plan, as you built the tail above. 
Place perimeter pieces first, then 
the risers, and finally the diagonals, 
working in from each end. This 
sequence gives glue joints a few 
minutes to set undisturbed. 

• Fit pieces F1, F2, and F3 into each 
side, spray down the assembly 
with warm water, and allow to dry 

• Remove the assembly from the 
plan and repeat these steps to build 
the second fuselage side. 

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Medicine Man Glider 

Step 6 — Pin the 2 sides together and sand their perimeters down so they 

• Drill two 3/16" holes in each 
fuselage side as shown on the plan 
for the wing mount pegs. You can 
twist the drill bit through the balsa 
with your fingers. 

• Separate the sides and sand the 
bevel shown in the fuselage top 
view into the tail. This makes the 2 
sides handed, mirror-images rather 
than identical. 

Step 7 — Cut and pin the cross-members 

Following the fuselage top view, cut 
the cross-members for stations 1 
through 7. Note that stations 3 and 
5 use spruce, and at station 4 the 
top cross-member sits about 3/8" 
below the top in order to clear the 
wing. Pin the bottom cross- 
members in place on the fuselage 
top view. 

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Medicine Man Glider 

Step 8 — Attach fuselage sides to cross-members 

Glue the far fuselage side to the cross-members at stations 4 and 5. Pin it in place through 
the bottom longeron and make it exactly vertical using the T square. 

Glue the other fuselage side vertical to cross-members 3 and 4. Add the top cross- 
members at stations 3 and 5 and re-true both sides, if needed, by adding or subtracting 
pins. Let dry 1 hour. 

Spruce cross-members can be pinned into their end grain, and you can daub glue 
into hard-to-reach locations using a pointy scrap of balsa. 

Glue the rear fuselage together in a similar manner, clamping or pinning the back (station 


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Medicine Man Glider 

Step 9 — Readjust 

• Readjust for trueness along both 
sides. Pinch, glue, and pin the 
cross-members at the front (station 
1). Check that the nose is square, 
and if it isn't, "persuade" it into 
position with a heavy, upright 
object such as a brick or a full 
bottle. Daub a second coat of glue 
onto these front cross-members 
(they're under quite a bit of stress), 
and allow to dry 1 hour. Spray 
down the entire fuselage and let it 
dry overnight, to further safeguard 
against the dreaded "banana" 

Step 10 — The nose 

• Glue 3/16" sheeting above and 
below the nose. The top center 
piece will be the equipment bay 
hatch, so just tack-glue this 
section. Add top and bottom 
"slivers" between stations 8 and 9, 
as shown in the fuselage top view. 
Sand the front of station 1 flat, and 
glue on the nose block. Laminate 
and glue in the tow hook mounting 
block on the fuselage centerline aft 
of station 3. Let dry overnight. 

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Medicine Man Glider 

Step 11 — Shape and sand 

• Shape and sand the completed 
fuselage. You can use the pen trick 
in Step 4 to shape the nose block. 
Lightly round the edges of the 
fuselage, except where the wing 
and tail will join. 

Step 12 — Build the wings 

You can build both wings at 
the same time if you have 
room on your building board. Be 
certain to build a right wing and a 
left wing, not two of the same! 

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Medicine Man Glider 

Step 13 — Trailing edges 

• Pin the 1" x W triangular trailing 
edge sections onto the plan, cutting 
and fitting the supporting pieces 
that curve forward at each end. 
Carefully mark and cut the 1/16" x 
1/8" notches where wing ribs R3- 
R15 fit into the trailing edge. A 
knife or razor saw will work, but a 
loose hacksaw blade is better. 

• Re-pin the trailing edges to the plan 
in place. Fit, glue, and pin down the 
supports, W1 and W2, and the 
spruce spar, sanding to match the 
plan if necessary. 

Step 14 — Bottom center sheet and wing ribs 

Add (cut, fit, glue, and pin) the bottom center sheet piece that lies aft of the spar and 
spans ribs R1 and R2 underneath. Add wing ribs R2 through R15. Let the glue set for 30 
minutes, then fit and glue the hard balsa 1/4" square leading edge into the ribs' triangular 
front notches. Pin and let dry overnight. 

The ribs' notches may need some sanding, but never force them into place! 


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Medicine Man Glider 

Step 15 — Cut the tips 

Cut the wings' curved tips using the Step 4 method, transferring the curve to the flat 
undersides. Sand the tips smooth and round. 

Sand spanwise the leading edge to a uniform semicircular cross-section, as shown on the 

A lot of aerodynamic activity occurs at the wingtips, so pay attention and do clean 


Step 16 — Sand 

Using the sanding block, sand an 
approximately 3° bevel into the 
wing roots where they will mate. Be 
very hygienic with making clean 
joints here: the wing center section 
absorbs more flight stresses than 
any other part of the aircraft! 

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Medicine Man Glider 

Step 17 — Join wings 

Pin one wing back to the plan and join it to the other wing by gluing together the inside 
edges of the center sheet pieces. Use a hardcover book or something similar to prop the 
opposite wing tip 6" above the building board. 

Spread glue generously over one side of the dihedral brace and clamp it into place, binding 
the 2 spars together. Add the R1 ribs, ensuring they assume an angle symmetrically 
between the ribs on either side. Let dry overnight. I accidentally cut the inside ends of the 
leading edges too short, so I filled the gap in between with a bit of balsa. 

Use 1/16" balsa to sheet the topside of the wings' center sections, then turn the wings over 
and add the bottom center sheet piece forward of the spar. Allow to dry. 

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Medicine Man Glider 

Step 18 — Test assembly 

• Use a foam-block sander to gently 
remove burrs and hard edges on all 
external surfaces, except for the 
hard corners where the wings and 
tail will mate to the fuselage. 

• Cut two 2 1/4"-long pegs out of the 
spruce dowel and round the ends. 
Insert the pegs into their holes in 
the fuselage. Mount the wings to 
the fuselage with rubber bands, 
using the pegs as end posts. 
Check for straightness both from 
the top and (especially) from plumb 
center rear, sanding where the 
wings meet the fuselage if there's a 

• Pin the tail components temporarily 
into place to again check the fit and 
alignment, making small 
adjustments where necessary. 
Again do so viewing the complete 
airframe from plumb center rear. 

• Step back and admire your work. 
Hey, I built that! Have a beer and 
just check it out. This is a moment 
to be savored; allow yourself to do 

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Medicine Man Glider 

Step 19 — Equip it for R/C (Optional) 

Drill holes in the fuselage rear for the 2 pushrods to exit. 

Mount 2 servos approximately where shown on the plan, using 3/16" x 3/8" spruce to 
conjure up a support framework for your system. Mount the pushrods to run to the servo 
heads unobstructed. 

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Medicine Man Glider 

Step 20 — Cover it 

Follow the instructions that come with your covering material. A single 72" roll will cover 
the entire model if you plan ahead. Here's the usual procedure for iron-on plastic. 

Cut out and lay a piece of covering over a section of the airframe. Smooth out the 
covering. Use a 350°F iron to first tack down the corners, then seal down the perimeter. 
Shrink and smooth the entire section by working the iron gently over the surface. Repeat 
for all model surfaces. 

Cut a fringe into any curved edges to seal them down without wrinkles. 


Step 21 — Final assembly - Horns and hinges 

• If you're using R/C, mount the 
control horns and hinges on the 
rudder and elevator. Locate the 
hinge slots you cut in Step 4 and 
re-cut them through the covering. 
Wood glue won't stick to plastic, so 
you need to remove the covering 
anywhere you're bonding to. For a 
model this size, I cut the hinges in 
half lengthwise. 

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Medicine Man Glider 

Step 22 — Final assembly - Pegs and elevator 

• Glue the wing-mount pegs in place 
in the fuselage. Attach the wings 
with rubber bands. 

• Glue the elevator to the tail fin, and 
glue this assembly in its mount 
between stations 8 and 9. Attach it 
to the fuselage with 1 pin centered 
in its leading edge. While the glue 
is still wet, center it so each tip 
measures the same distance to a 
common midpoint centered on top, 
and then pin down the trailing end. 

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Medicine Man Glider 

Step 23 — Final assembly - Adjust and trim 

• With the glue still wet, adjust and 
pin the rear stabilizer so that it 
lines up symmetrically below the 
wings. Let it dry 1 hour. Glue and 
pin the vertical fin centered in 
place, and use a T square to 
ensure that it's perfectly 
perpendicular. Let it dry 1 hour. 

• Trim some hinge material, then 
glue it to attach the rudder to the 
vertical fin. Glue the ventral fin to 
the fuselage and use more hinge 
material to connect it to the bottom 
of the rudder. Run a bead of glue 
around all fixed joints on the model. 
Check for square along all aspects, 
and let dry undisturbed overnight. 

• IMPORTANT! To adjust the 
wing "washout" for flight at 
low glider speeds, the trailing 
edges of the wing tips need to be 
twisted upward. Prop up the wing 
trailing edges with scraps of balsa, 
and then tape or clip small weights 
to the other 3 corners of each wing. 
Iron out the resulting wrinkles in 
the covering, and allow to cool to 
"lock" the new angle in place. 


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Medicine Man Glider 

Step 24 — Final assembly - For R/C 

• For R/C, install the radio receiver 
and battery in the nose, following 
the instructions. For gliders, I skip 
the switch and plug the battery 
straight into the receiver before 
flying. I had to take my older 
receiver out of its case and wrap it 
in plastic to get it to fit, but a 
modern mini receiver should fit with 
no problem. 

• For R/C, connect pushrods to the 
servo arms, center the trim 
switches on the transmitter, and 
turn on the radio. The servos will 
come alive and center themselves. 
Install the included hardware to 
hold the pushrods, then follow them 
back to place and attach control 
horns to the elevator and rudder. 
Connect the rods to the horns. 
Move the radio's stick to make 
sure nothing hits anything else. 

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Medicine Man Glider 

Step 25 — Final assembly - Tow hook and landing skid 

• For the tow hook, drive a 1" screw 
into fuselage, following the plan. 
For the landing skid, use 2 more 
screws to attach the brass strip 
under the fuselage, then sandwich 
rolls of masking tape above the 
middle to make the strip spring. 
Ensure that the radio is fully 
charged, and mount the wings to 
the fuselage. That's it! 

• Download the plans for Medicine 
Man and read more about model 
aviation at 

makezine. com/1 7/model_airplane. 

• Build a high-start catapult to launch 
your glider hundreds of feet in the 

• For a small glider like this, use 
about 3-5 pounds of pull for your 
first launches. 

Related Make: Online posts: 

Using Paper Airplanes to Learn About Flight: 

$2000 Homemade Airplane: 

Medicine Man Glider in MAKE, volume 17: 

http://makezine.eom/1 7/ 

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Medicine Man Glider 
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This document was last generated on 2012-11-01 01 :23:55 PM. 

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